Chapter 28. /dev and /proc

A Linux or UNIX machine typically has two special-purpose directories, /dev and /proc.

28.1. /dev

The /dev directory contains entries for the physical devices that may or may not be present in the hardware. [1] The hard drive partitions containing the mounted filesystem(s) have entries in /dev, as a simple df shows.
 bash$ df
 Filesystem           1k-blocks      Used Available Use%
 Mounted on
 /dev/hda6               495876    222748    247527  48% /
 /dev/hda1                50755      3887     44248   9% /boot
 /dev/hda8               367013     13262    334803   4% /home
 /dev/hda5              1714416   1123624    503704  70% /usr

Among other things, the /dev directory also contains loopback devices, such as /dev/loop0. A loopback device is a gimmick that allows an ordinary file to be accessed as if it were a block device. [2] This enables mounting an entire filesystem within a single large file. See Example 13-6 and Example 13-5.

A few of the pseudo-devices in /dev have other specialized uses, such as /dev/null, /dev/zero and /dev/urandom.



The entries in /dev provide mount points for physical and virtual devices. These entries use very little drive space.

Some devices, such as /dev/null, /dev/zero, and /dev/urandom are virtual. They are not actual physical devices and exist only in software.


A block device reads and/or writes data in chunks, or blocks, in contrast to a character device, which acesses data in character units. Examples of block devices are a hard drive and CD ROM drive. An example of a character device is a keyboard.